Friday, December 11, 2015

A Year in Retrospect

Every December, as I am writing my year-end family reflections and history, I also take stock of my writing goals and outcomes to see if I have made any progress in my development as a writer, in my knowledge and insight and connections of, and within, the publishing industry, and in the outcomes I am attempting to achieve.

But no matter how I look at it 2015 was a big year in many respects.  In addition to having three books released in one year--Common Ground (Skyhorse, New York), Indiana Wineries (Blue River Press, Indianapolis) and the novel Slay Bells, as R.L.Perry (Blue River Press, Indianapolis)--I also published a large pile of other material, wide-ranging in subject, scope, and genre.  Every morning, when I get up to write in the dark, I write what I want to write--and sometimes what I have to write in order to meet deadline(s).

As far as essays and articles go, I placed work in Midwest Outdoors, YouthWorker, Preaching and Together magazines.  All told, something like 75 essays for these publications alone.

But in addition, I also placed a number of stories in other magazines this year--mostly university presses and literary journals--that ranged from what might loosely be deemed as romance, fantasy, or literary.  Among these, "The Tall Girl's Wedding", "Equinox", "The Man Upstairs" and "The Thin Man" are some of my best.  I now have a wide ranging corpus of stories, few clearly defined by genre, that I hope to collect between covers very soon.  As one editor wrote about one story, "I'm not sure what this is, or how to define it, but I like it."

I also published a few more science fiction stories this year (with others sold and scheduled for publication in early 2016) that include, "The Last Man on Earth" in Nebula Rift and the forthcoming "The Superannuated Man" in Morpheus Tales (England).

Note: this last story, "The Superannuated Man", was one of the many that I lost when my computer crashed and burned two years ago.  Of the stories lost, I knew that I would have to rewrite this one from memory, but the new version turned out even better than the first, for which I am grateful.

As far as poetry goes, I also placed many new poems in literary magazines in 2015.  Some of these could be categorized as "love" poems, but others were experimental, emotional, regional, domestic, or light verse.  I also continued writing on my poetry collection that I hope to entitle, Circus.  It is safe to say that I wrote over 100 new poems this year, and many that I consider my best to date, and they continue to emerge . . . often late at night before I go to sleep or when I wake in the middle of the night with some hair-brained idea and begin writing again.  Poems often jump-start my creativity.

As a rule, I write about everything that is part of the human experience and the human condition.  Spirituality, love, ministry, horror, recreation, wines, joys, sorrows, relationships, sex, outdoors, fitness and the future . . . to name a few.

Finally, as I look forward to 2016, I anticipate five new books that will be forthcoming--that's almost a book every two months and thinking about it astounds me and fills me with a certain anticipation and dread.  Lord willing, and if I don't die first, I will also sign on for more books that I will produce in 2017 and beyond.  

Those titles you can look for in 2016 include:

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (a children's biography of the Civil Rights leader)
Praying Through Cancer (a book for cancer patients and their families)
The Seven Deadly Virtues (Inter Varsity Press)
Bleak Midwinter (2nd book in the Mary Christmas mystery series)
Cold Snap (3rd book in the Mary Christmas mystery series)

I thank all of my publishers and editors and my agent, Cynthia, for working with a weirdo like me!

And what will I write in 2016?  Only God knows . . . and me.  As I told my mother decades ago (age 12) when she asked, "What are you going to write about?" I answered, "Anything I want to."

Land of the free.  It's a great country. And I'll keep writing if you'll keep reading.



Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Nome De Plume

Just published, my first novel under my Nome De Plume . . . R.L. Perry.  Hot off the press and available now through or  

Some years ago it became apparent to me that I was writing far more material than my name could carry into publication.  And so, with the help of my publisher, Tom, we hit upon the idea of my writing under a Nome De Plume.  But what name?

I suggested several, including Cornelius MacGillicudy, Eustace Von Coldcream IV, or Lady Godiva.  But these didn't seem to fit.  Eventually we settled upon a combination of my wife's initials (R.L.) and my maternal grandmother's maiden name (Perry).  And hence, R.L. Perry was birthed.

And so is my first Nome De Plume novel:  Slay Bells.  This mystery/romance featuring female sleuth and funeral director, Mary Christmas, is the first of a projected twelve novels in a series.  I'm looking forward to writing the other eleven . . . and if I write one a year, I'll be 67 years old when I complete the dozen.

Naturally, this makes me ponder some of life's deeper questions, such as:

What was I thinking?
Can I write one novel a year in addition to my other books, essays, short stories, poems and book reviews?
Will R.L. Perry be a success?
At age 67, will I be taking my nourishment through a straw?

Anyway, in the event my readers would enjoy something different (sizzling romance and mystery/mayhem) I hope I will be able to deliver . . . especially writing in a female voice.  Perhaps Father Andrew Greeley would be proud.

I am especially hopeful that other women will find my romance compelling, especially since my wife will never read these and as she always says, "You know nothing about romance anyway."  Well, we'll see.  I have a feeling these sexy little holiday mystery novels will catch on . . . and with a name like Mary Christmas . . . heck, my wife might even make me dinner.

Yours in pseudonym, love and mystery . . . 
~R. L. Perry

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Working With the Wife

Photo: July wine trip, California, Navarro Winery before 31st wedding anniversary and a bunch of other junk

My most recent book, Indiana Wineries, was written with my wife, Becky.  Since she snapped many of the photos in the book, and often accompanied me on the winery visits around the state, I thought it was important to have her name on the cover . . . that, and we could then divide our time at book signings, appearances, and other winery visits once the book was published.

A great plan.

But working with a wife, any wife, is not what it's cracked up to be.  Now, instead of being this independent writer who is footloose and fancy free (isn't this the definition of freelancer?) I am bombarded with questions like:

"So, when is our next book signing?"
"Why did you schedule it then?"
"What were you thinking?"
"You did what?"
"You Idiot!"

This experience has taught me one thing:  I admire those married couples who can work together for long expanses of time . . . such as a full day or a swing shift.  Being able to work with your spouse demonstrates a certain resolve.  But believing that you can work with your spouse for days-on-end demonstrates a proclivity toward insanity.

Don't get me wrong.  I love my wife.  She's my best friend, my confidant, my sometimes-cook and cleaning lady.  She's also the principal breadwinner and my lover (at least twice a year and always on my birthday if she doesn't have a headache).  You do the math.  We were meant for each other.  She doesn't even care if I forget an anniversary or two.  What a woman! 

But going on a book-signing tour together was not God's design for marriage. Rather, God intended for literary couples to write from their respective cubicles and holler at each other late at night:  "How do you spell olfactory?" 

The fact is, we are just getting started on our book tour around the state.  I have miles to go before I sleep . . . and I was getting very little of it before I began working with my wife.  

But folks who are looking for entertainment should seek us out at these book signings.  Chances are, we'll be there together, and patrons can catch us mid-argument, or perhaps wrestling with deeper frustrations that involve split infinitives or choice adjectives.  We might even toss in a noun.

Just don't forget to ask us about Indiana wines.  That will help.  My wife knows more about these things than I do.  I'm just along for the ride.  And I try to keep my mouth shut unless I'm tasting.
~Todd Outcalt

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Week's Worth of Work

Writers often discover success like bananas--in bunches.  And this past week was an interesting, and eclectic bunch, for sure.

In addition to completing a few new essays for submission in 2016, some of my older essays found their way to readerships at YouthWorker and elsewhere. I was also overjoyed when two editors said "yes" to some of my poems--all of which were fast-tracked to publications before year end.  

And then there's science fiction. A couple of week's ago I had a nod from an editor in London (thanks, Adam) who has been very kind to me over the years, accepting my short story "The Superannuated Man".  Last week I placed a second story, "The Last Man on Earth", in a newer publication.

Often, it takes weeks like this to keep a writer writing . . . but that's part of the struggle and the fun.  Nothing comes easy.  

It is also fun to ask:  "What's next?"  Much yet to write.  

And eating a banana now and then doesn't hurt, either.
~Todd Outcalt

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Beginning, A Middle & An End

Photo: (Wine tour, Northern California, July 2015)

Last week Becky and I heard Joyce Carol Oates speak at Clowes Hall, Butler. A remarkable experience as she read for an hour from her new memoir and afterwards entertained questions. Although nominated several times for awards such as the Pulitzer and National Book Awards, and having authored more than 150 titles, I doubt that 1% of the American population have heard of this remarkable wordsmith. 

Ah, but such is the life of a writer.

In the course of her talk, Oates noted that she is always working on various books, stories or essays . . . all in various states of dress or undress.  Writers who write every day know the drill.

Last week I completed a manuscript for InterVarsity Press--a book to be entitled The Seven Deadly Virtues.  It will be published some time in 2016.  That's an end for me (or perhaps a fresh start, depending upon how one looks at it, as now I can begin another book).

I'm also in the middle of finalizing a final draft version of a novel written over a year ago . . . but it should be out in a week or two.  Middle?  End?

And I have two or three new stories that I'm working on, each in the beginning stages of production . . . work that is seeking clarity and direction in the wee hours of the night (or is it morning?) when I am hammering away at the keys in the dark. 

Right now, Becky and I are enjoying our publishing foray into the world of wines (Indiana Wineries, Blue River Press) and some of the appearances and signings that will afford us a chance to meet the public and scratch our names onto the title page. It is always important to have fun while it lasts . . . as all good things eventually come to an end. 

So until the next beginning. . . 


Monday, September 28, 2015

Bits & Pieces

Sometimes writers can--just like sports teams or race cars--find themselves "running hot". Momentum, clarity, or even perseverance can all play in part in the streak. 

Over the past two months I've learned the value of patience and revision, especially as it pertains to essays, short stories and poems. I've had several short stories that have found their way into print, including one romance story, "The Tall Girl's Wedding", and a quirky piece of flash fiction that I entitled, "The Tall Man".  (The "tall" in the titles is purely coincidence.)

Last week I also learned that a Science Fiction and Fantasy magazine in London will be publishing my science fiction story, "The Superannuated Man"--a story that I've worked on for some years now and rewrote from top to bottom a few months ago. I knew it was a good story, I just had to perfect the tone, pace, and point of view. 

And as for essays, a few upcoming book reviews top the list and I also wrote an outdoor article about fishing for Sheep-heads.  While I don't personally fish for the dang things, I spent an afternoon earlier this summer watching some teenagers haul them in . . . and I took photos and conducted interviews on the spot. (This was during vacation, so I broke my vow to Becky that I would not do any writing away from home . . . but she'll never know since she doesn't read this blog and certainly won't see the article.)

Finally, a few poems forthcoming in various literary and university journals, including The Lyric

All in all . . . a rather productive summer for short pieces. Well on my way to having more than 100 essays published for 2015.  Now if I can just finish my science fiction novella and my essay about funeral eulogies . . . in addition to the books . . . I might be able to eat that ham sandwich.  

Thursday, September 24, 2015

By the Numbers

Not long ago someone asked me:  "How many sermons have you preached?"

"Offhand," I responded, "I don't know."  But the question intrigued me and so I set off on a hunt through my files, my history, and my shoddy memory to arrive at a number. However, I quickly bumped up against some roadblocks. Words--and their creation--are indeed elusive commodities. 

My search for sermon fodder also took me on other side trips through the far country of word-land, and before I knew it, I was making lists and columns and screaming at my wife:  "Where's the calculator?"

(She reminded me that I have one on my cell phone and another on the computer I'm using right now . . . but again, I forget these things.  I'm still hunting for the slide rule I used in high school and I nearly flunked calculus.)

Nevertheless, I did eventually arrive at some neatly crafted columns. I'm not sure what these numbers say about me, but I do know that they represent a huge portion of my life--a life spent, often, crafting these things early in the morning or late at night. I cannot begin to estimate the hours represented by them . . . but here they are:

1700 sermons written
3000+ sermons preached
30+ books published
100+ books written 
700+ published essays/stories
125 published poems
500+ poems written

As far as other stats go, these might be of interest to some:

5 (number of sermons my wife said were "good")
1000+ (number of times my wife has heard me preach)
2 (number of my books my wife has read)
0 (number of my short stories my wife has read)
0 (number of my books my son has read)
0 (number of my books my son says he will read someday)
0 (number of my books I have read after publication)
12 (number of sermons my parents have heard me preach)
1000+ (number of blog posts I have written)
0 (number of my blog posts my wife has read)
300+ (number of romantic poems written to my wife)
7 (number of romantic poems my wife says are "good")
0 (number of my love poems that produced "results")

As you can see, living life by the numbers is no fun. I'm not a mathematician. I'm not an engineer. I'm not even an author. I'm a writer. 

But every time I do the numbers, life doesn't add up. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Of New Orleans, New Books, and New Blogs

Forgive me father, for I have sinned. It's been several months since my last confession . . . and my last blog posting.

Nevertheless, I want to begin by announcing that I have a new book, Indiana Wineries, fresh from the mint.  (Actually, I should say that Becky and I have a new book, as her name is on the cover, too.)

What is this book?  Well, it's a five-year project whereby we visited all of the wineries in the Hoosier state, photographed, interviewed, and profiled each and all.  The book is beautifully illustrated and photographed--by far the most ornate and eye-appealing book I've done to date (thanks to Blue River Press).  The book also contains a history of Indiana vineyards and wineries, wine appreciation, weekend trip suggestions, recipes, tips . . . and so much more.  For those who want to know what's now available on the wine scene from Indiana wineries--this is the book.  

To accompany the book, we also have a new blog:

What's on this blog?  Upcoming interviews, profiles, wineries new and old, and plenty more.  Check it out and check back often to get the latest on Indiana Wineries.

Finally . . . I noted today, after picking up a used hardback copy of my book, Candles in the Dark, that I had obtained the copy once owned by the New Orleans Public Library.  The book was published in 2002, probably stayed in the library in New Orleans for two or three years, and obviously made it out before hurricane Katrina in 2005 . . . ten years ago now.

Anyway, having that copy looking me square in the eye as I write this has set me to thinking about these odd connections.  How did something I wrote fifteen years ago make it from New York (published) to New Orleans and then back to my house?  How many people--now living or dead--read this copy?  

Anyway, I'm still reading, still writing . . . and still waiting.  I also hope to write more often right here--and I won't be waiting until the spirit moves me.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

All That Jazz

I don't always post news of my writing endeavors . . . but when I do, I use this blog.

Well, but it has been a wild month of conversations, assignments, potentialities.  I'm so grateful to my editor, Sarah, for meeting me in Boulder last week to discuss further marketing ideas for The Other Jesus.  And, of course, it was fun to catch up over a cup of coffee.

And many short assignments completed also in March & April.  Seven published essays on my count, along with three book reviews and a feature article on rainbow trout.  I also received word of two short story acceptances, including one story that I've been trying to find a home for for nearly a decade--a romantic story entitled, "The Tall Girl's Wedding".  

And poems?  By last count I was elated to receive word that one magazine had accepted five and another three.  If I can still do math, that means eight published poems in one month . . . so not too bad.

I'm also elated to have signed on to write a book for InterVarsity Press, a book entitled, The Seven Deadly Virtues. Thank you, Helen and IVPress.  I've been getting my notes together, thoughts clarified, and now I'm ready to set out on this journey.

But I've got to get moving.  Why, just the time it has taken me to write this blog has been time I could have used in these other endeavors.  

That's always the message for writers . . . don't sit and talk about writing.  Get writing.  Don't sit still.  All that jazz . . . .     

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Woody and Me

Some three years ago, Becky and I set out on a quest to watch all of Woody Allen's movies.  (He's made more than you might think.)  We are still trying to get to the end of this queue.  

Recently, however, my attention fastened upon a character played by Nick Nolte.  In this one scene Nolte, a painter, was discussing the significance of his painting with a young art student who was threatening to quit.  She asked, "But how do you get inspired to paint?  How do you find the energy to keep doing it?"

The answer came suddenly, with the Nolte blurting out, "One doesn't paint because one wants to.  If a person is a painter, he will paint because he can't do anything else."

I've heard this same line used in ministry . . . but I've also heard it used when it comes to writing.  Writers write because they have to.  At least it's held true for me.

Even now, sitting here watching an NCAA basketball game that I've pulled in through my rabbit ears (and high def no less) . . . I am writing.  In the past two hours I've written three essays to meet a publication deadline.  Last night I wrote five short stories (all less than 1000 words each, but five nonetheless).  And early this morning I finished two poems, wrote eight pages of material for a review, and began writing a new book proposal.  Why?  What else can I do?  What else is there to do in the middle of the night?  (And don't mention sex cause I can't meet that deadline any more.)

No . . . it's writing from here on out.  Writing until my back goes, my knees, my mind.  And besides, I've got too many books, too many stories, too many essays, too many poems--both unpublished and yet to be written--that are waiting in the wings.

An actor acts.  A painter paints. A writer writes.  It's a life sentence

Friday, March 13, 2015

Books of the Year

Back in October I traveled to New York to visit editors at several publishing houses, talk shop, and even deliver a book manuscript. I also had drinks with my former literary agent who, at one juncture in our conversation, asked, "So how do you manage to write so many books for so many publishers?"

It was a question I had not pondered before, but my answer leaned into the category of diversity--and the idea that I write different types of books for different publishers:  some are relational, some theological, others are more in the vein of general interest or even academic.  I'm not sure that's a sane answer, but it's one that I've lived with now for some thirty years as I continue to write devotional work, academic, self-help, travel, and fiction in the genres of mystery and science fiction and literary.  

Last week I had a short story accepted for publication that is romance, so I guess I write romantic fiction, too.  (My wife thinks I know nothing about this subject and believes I am a fraud.  But since she doesn't read what I write, what does she know?)

I also had two essays accepted for publication last week on outdoor/sporting related subjects . . . so I guess I write outdoor and recreational work as well.

All of this to say that every day is an adventure.  I never know what I'm going to get into when I wake up at four a.m. to begin my next writing session.  I might write a chapter.  I might write an essay.  I might write a poem.  It could be a short story or a 2000-word essay on some subject I know nothing about (such as Jungian psychology or the chemistry of chicken feed).  If an idea grabs me, I start writing (or I start learning) and I go with it.

Last year (2014) I had four books published and anticipate at least six in 2015.  But It's always fun to look back and give thanks for what can be accomplished through blood, sweat and tears . . . which are a writer's greatest friends.  (There's no such thing as a "muse" . . . only hard work and discipline.)

Gotta feel the gratitude in these . . . and thanks for reading.

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Week in the Life Of . . .

Now and again people ask me, "What are you working on?"  I guess they think I actually work, which is a good sign.  Or perhaps they recognize that writing is work . . . especially the way I have to do it:  late at night or at ungodly hours of the morning when I frequently rise at 3 a.m. or thereabouts.  I'm not complaining, but my goal is that someday (in retirement?) I will actually be able to write in the daylight instead of in the dark.

But in answer to these inquiries:  "Yes, I am always working on something."  In fact, I am always working on somethings (note the plural). 

Last week, for example, was a very productive pipeline despite having the flu for two days.  Before and after the vomiting I had a number of deadlines to meet, producing four essays to be published in March, and I also received word from Poetry Quarterly that they were accepting three of my poems for publication this summer.  (I thank the editors and their kind words about those respective poems.)

In addition, I also proofed an entire book (Common Ground) now in the galley stage, and began working with a designer on another book that will also be released in May of this year.  (Two massive books in one month ain't for the faint of heart or for the sleepy . . . but I figure I'll have time to sleep when I'm dead.)

I also received word that another publisher is interested in one of my books on cancer--or, more accurately, cancer support.  I'll be hot on the trail of that puppy very soon and will have to write that one quickly.

And finally, I received word that my book, The Other Jesus, did not receive a Wilbur Award . . . an accolade given each year to various books in religion (kind of like an academy awards ceremony for nerds).  But hey, it was nice to be considered, though I doubt anyone would want to take a selfie with me.

All in all, a rather memorable week, puking and shakes notwithstanding.  

And, although Becky claims I got sick because I am worn out, I actually don't feel tired at all.  Rather, I feel stoked.  But I'd better be.

With all these pages to write and a short time to get there, I'd better buy some more floppy disks and keep my water bottle near the monitor in case it bursts into flames.  Call me a Luddite if you like, but I doubt there's another writer in America who is still dredging up work from his old Tandy 1000.  

Now excuse me while I catch two hours of sleep.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Mona Lisa Moments

It has been some months since I've posted a "Between Pages" blog entry, but much has happened in my world of words since my last post, including a 30th anniversary trip to Europe, publication of The Other Jesus, and a rash of essays and articles.  I've also enjoyed a business trip to New York, where I met with three publishers and a former literary agent (for drinks no less)--making my way through Greenwich Village, the Flatiron building, and midtown bearing gifts from Venice . . . and all the while feeling very much at home in the Big Apple, publishing capital of the world.  (Picture Ma and Pa Kettle in Manhattan and you have some idea of how my two worlds collide.)

One thing though:  my frustration runs deep.  

With dozens of books now in the hopper and in various stages of dress and undress, I set a blazing pace at the keyboard and may soon have to buy more floppy disks to keep up with the deadlines.  Sleep would be a welcome friend as well.

While in Europe, however, I did manage to keep my promise to Becky that I would not write a single word during this anniversary excursion.  I let go of writing completely, but since my return in August I note that I have had one new book released, have written four more book proposals, and have half a dozen others scheduled for release later this year.  I've also written nearly 80 published essays and some fifty poems.  

Among these verses--some of which I consider my best work to date--I've also reflected on some of the lighter moments of Europe . . . including our visit to the Louvre--a destination that has become nearly singularly defined by the mass pilgrimage to see a tiny Da Vinci portrait, otherwise known as the Mona Lisa.  But I personally found the mass-appeal laughable and just had to write about it.  If you've been there and witnessed the pull . . . you'll understand this bit of light verse.

Mona Lisa in the Louvre

We wait in line
            We do our time
                        By centimeters move
            That’s come to see
                        The Mona Lisa in the Louvre

You feel the pinch
            As inch-by-inch
                        The line snakes in a groove
Dreaming awhile
            You smile her smile
                        Like Mona Lisa in the Louvre

Then at the last
            You hasten past
                        Great works of art and prove
That you don’t care
            What else is there
                        But Mona Lisa in the Louvre

One final push
            And then you rush
                        A chaos in commove
To glimpse in mass
            Da Vinci’s caste
                        His Mona Lisa in the Louvre

Yes there is art
            Back at the start
                        But none of them behoove
The hours of wait
            Right from the gate
                        As Mona Lisa in the Louvre